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oharaBy Ryan O’Hara, Quarterback Coach, Santa Monica College

Find out how three simple drills can refocus your QB on the fundamentals and greatly improve his accuracy.

By Ryan O’Hara - @CoachRyanO

Quarterback Coach

Santa Monica College


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Editor's Note:  Coach O'Hara is an experienced quarterback coach based out of Southern California.  In 2013, as Santa Monica College QB Coach, Coach O'Hara was part of the 3rd straight Pacific Conference Championship (20 straight Conf wins).  His offense led the conference in yards and points. Prior to his time at Santa Monica, he served as an offensive coordinator at the HS level for 6 years.  As a player, Ryan was Elite 11 QB 2001, started at QB at University of Arizona as RS Freshman 2003, played AFL2.  He also serves as a private QB trainer in Southern California.



oharaNow is the time to refine your Quarterbacks’ mechanics during spring and summer ball so that it becomes muscle memory by the time next season hits.  Good QB coaches know that most of the time accuracy issues DO NOT start with the QB’s release.  Instead, it is born out of problems with a quarterback’s balance, stride length, and control of the ball.   Here is a breakdown:

Are you aligned to begin with

A marksman cannot hit his target if his weapon is not pointed at it (front shoulder, hip, side of front foot).  Grip on football: middle finger parallel on top lace so at top of throwing motion ball forms 90 degree angle off the hand, with nose coming straight out.

Are you in balance

The proper passing stance and stride length are critical for rotational fluidity and balance.  Cheeks, shoulders, hips stay on the horizontal rotational plane. 

Did you finish with your eyes and your index

“Focus through the throw,” not “to the throw” is essential.  When your find your open man your eyes have to zone in, “aim small, miss small,” and your index finger should be reaching out to touch the target right down the midline with wrist pronation for a spiral.  Instead of teaching “opposite pocket,” I tell my QB’s to slice the target in half while extending with their throwing hand as to limit horizontal inaccuracies.

Did you stick your landing

I ask my QB’s to hold their finish 2 full seconds for two reasons.  First it shows me they are in balance, with both feet in the ground (90/10   weight distribution), back foot should not leave the ground, which will ensure the hips and shoulder will stay level through rotation.  Secondly, it allows them to run down a self checklist.  

Each of these concepts has one thing in common, they are all connected to balance.  It is for that reason that I have found these three staple drills which are simplest yet most effective ways to work on balance to improve accuracy throughout the offseason.  Those drills include:  Mirror Work, Kinetic Chain, and Base Work & Snap Frontside.


Drill 1:  Mirror Work

I ask my QB’s to get in front of the mirror for 10 minutes every night and work 4 different poses related to pocket passing.  Pause for 3 seconds at each pose:

Passing Stance:

Eyes downfield, Posture upright, feet shoulder width/parallel, knees flexed, all your cleats in the ground.  Middle finger parallel on top lace, with boxer stance- high hands, relaxed shoulders. Ball tight on upper half of numbers. This is what they should see in the mirror:  


Numbers to Target, Bicep to Ear:

The second pose is the rotation of hips, shoulder and feet.  Throwing arm bicep as close to ear as possible, throwing elbow pointed at target, hand forms a “C” and not a “U” to keep control over top and arm lever aligned properly.  Back foot should still be in the ground, on the toes, front knee bent with the whole front foot in the ground (90/10).  Off arm clears the face and comes tight to the rib/armpit.  Ball should be in Hand with the nose leveled out parallel. Keep cheeks, shoulders level and get in “The Narrow Hallway.” Here’s what they should see in the mirror: 



The third pose will be with no football.  They will practice the first two poses then work to pose 3:  90/10 foot weight distribution, back shoulder replace front shoulder, front knee bent, back knee extended, off arm tight to the rib.  Throwing arm fully extend, thumb down, wrist flexed. Here’s what they should see in the mirror: 


Stick Your Landing

Ask your QB’s to hold their finish for 2 full seconds to show balance.  Finish should have back shoulder replacing front shoulder, thumb down, wrist flexed, throwing arm fully extended, posture up, 90/10, back toe even with front heel, off arm tight.  This pose is done with no football.  Here’s what they should see in the mirror: 




What You're Missing:

Join XandOLabs.com exclusive Insiders program and gain full access to the entire drill article including:  

  • Coach O'Hara's complete list of post pass self assessment progression.
  • How Coach O'Hara's Kenetic Chain drill refines the quarterbacks rotation leading to increased accuracy (including drill film).
  • How the Work & Snap Front Side drill helps QB's stay balanced through small pocket movements.
  • Plus drill film for the comprehensive Mirror Drill shown above.

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In the end, it is imperative that coaches understand that no detail is too small when coaching your QB.  As a former QB, I know that the more direction I was given the more confident I felt in my coaches and myself.  Hound over the small things and have a consistent voice so your QB’s develop a confident routine.  I thank your for your time and wish all of you the best of luck this season.   




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